Heavenly Peace in the Afternoon

IMG_5329It’s December 1, and my first post in a fairly long time.  I have missed the act of sharing small insights the Lord has shared with me, with you and others.

In a timespan that started on October 28, I can now count two family surgeries, two-out-of-three craft shows, and one major holiday as “in the past.”  Whew!  I had really underestimated the emotional and physical toll all that would take.

But today, December 1, feels different.  After a week or so of brutal winds, considerable snowfall and walkways covered with ice, the sun is shining and it is relatively warm to sit outside.  IMG_5332This California-Arizona sunshine girl is thoroughy enjoying what heat can creep through a midweight sweatshirt and sweatpants on this wonderful bright afternoon.

I am sitting on the front garden deck.  A few birds swing by to pay their respects and share their songs…then they pause to gauge how stradled birdmuch birdseed remains in the feeder before moving on to nearby pine branches.

My garden blooms do not sit with me, of course.

IMG_5327And the garden sign is wrapped with Christmas lights, not greenery.  But no matter.  Even without glorious blooms and bright colors, this remains a garden.  Dormant roots rest before vigorously pursuing their production again in a few months.  Each brown stalk reminds me of a green one yet to come.  My snow-covered containers are tubs filled with a hopeful future, each one waiting for its season to transform anew into an object of beauty.

Although it is daytime, I hear the refrain of “Silent night, holy night; all is calm, all is bright,” run through my mind.

It occurs to me that sometimes as we sit in the dormant garden of our lives, we most clearly see, and most deeply appreciate, our Savior, Comforter and Encourager.

IMG_5330Jesus always sees our snow-covered brown stalks as promises of the next season to come, of new life and new vigor, new glory and new strength.

Heavenly peace.  I may not be sleeping, but I can certainly sense it all around me…

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”   (Rom. 15:13)

Bird Steps and the Path of Wisdom

I was watching a small black bird carefully weave its path through piles of birdseed recently kicked to the deck by a sunflower seed-thieving chipmunk.  I was amazed at how carefully the bird chose which seeds to eat, walking right over some kernels while stopping to furiously peck at others.  Despite a diverse mixture of shapes, sizes and textures, I consider the round-and-the-long to all fit into a single category:  birdseed.  Each and every kernel providing a perfect diet fit for any bird to eat.

And then the Lord brought the word wisdom to my mind.  That quite-small bird possessed an even tinier brain.  Yet its loving Creator had instilled the appropriate amount of divine wisdom within it to recognize and choose which seeds were most beneficial to eat when presented with a wide selection to choose from.IMG_5447

And in that moment, I “got the message” — at least one of the messages:  quite often the seeds we choose to accept for our personal life-nourishment lack the wisdom God gave a bird.

Twice in Scripture, the word “leaven” is mentioned and each time it shares the same warning: “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?” (I Cor. 5:6, NASB) To the Galatians, Paul spoke, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.”  (Gal. 5:9)

These are short but significant statements, worthy to serve as launch pads for personal reflection and assessment.

It’s no secret that the world offers us many different seeds; on some occasions, they are hurled in our direction with such force that it feels like we are being blasted by a sandstorm.  Like the bird, we need to proceed with caution as we look around us and see what has landed at our feet.  For each one will bear its intrinsic destiny of fruit.  Just as we have the free will to choose nutrition-anemic Twinkies over vitamin-packed blueberries for our bodies, so we have the same free will to choose “junk food” (or even poison!) to plant the rudiments of future devastation into the soil of our souls, into the gardens of our faith. IMG_3318

Which brings us back to being mindful regarding the leaven in our lives.

Hebrews 5:4 teaches, “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” (NASB)  The Passion Translation states that scripture in this manner:  “But solid food is for the mature, whose spiritual senses perceive heavenly matters.  And they have been adequately trained by what they experience to emerge with understanding of the difference between what is truly excellent and what is evil and harmful.”

Perceiving spiritual matters.

The most public current flowing through our culture is to portray “spiritual matters” devoid of any relationship with a relational, holy and good God.  Or, to flip the coin, that same current pulls in philosophical and socio-political dregs that attempt to redefine the nature of the phrase “spiritual matters,” blurring and twisting boundaries between “truly excellent” and what may be categorized as “evil and harmful.”img_7251

Think about the practical applications of knowing and embracing this discernment:  The difference between what is truly excellent and what is evil and harmful.

I sometimes feel like the Ben Gates character in National Treasure, when he reads a key phrase on future destiny from the Declaration of Independence and then states, “Nobody talks like that anymore.”

The truth is, we should.

We breathe and walk in the midst of a generation and culture in desperate need of understanding these two concepts.  We carry out our everyday lives in the midst of a generation and culture whose surrounding influences have flipped and twisted the concepts of “truly excellent” and “evil and harmful” nearly beyond recognition, enticing us all to eat that harmful seed of non-distinction.

And some of us have.  The leaven of each concept, mixed and roiling internal conflict within us, silences our voices and dulls our convictions.

Yet His Spirit encourages us with the words, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if IMG_8744there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Phil. 4:8, NASB)

These are not mere “good thoughts” to keep a smile on our faces throughout the day.  These are terms of warfare.  Standards by which crooked paths may be set straight.

Truth.  Honor.  Right.  Purity.  Loveliness.  Good repute.  Excellence.  That which is worthy of praise.  Each of these is leaven to be stirred into the dough of our conscience, courage, and love towards others.  Each of those, once planted, is a seed from which roots will form and a powerful crop will emerge.  The enemy is always seeking to supplant each one with a counterfeit, a substitute loyal to himself.

Urgently, brethren, we need to order our path with “bird steps” – carefully examining the seeds that are thrown before us, rejecting as unpalatable those seeds that defy His wisdom.  Let us carefully embrace and nurture those that will enable us to walk as He walked, “making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:16, NASB)

Singing for Joy in the Temple

Overwhelmed by a sense of joy in the Lord, I wrote this quick post and want to share its moment of exultant praise with you!

February 27, 2019:  It is a beautiful morning and I have received a wonderful and unexpected gift:  this warm, sun-filled morning with many different species of birds passing through, singing and wing-flapping and chirping on the way.  Psalm 84:1 reads…Fall-Winter Journal, 2018-19

bird on feeder roof macro

Reflections: Dancing In The Rain

dancing in the rain01As I scrolled down the Twitter posts, a colorful-but-familiar poster caught my eye: “Don’t wait for the storm to pass – learn to dance in the rain.”

I have previously read and seen this quote many times, presented on many different backgrounds. But on this particular occasion, I re-read it several times because the Lord began to unwrap different depths of impact to the words; He was opening my eyes to a deeper level of significance than I had previously noticed.

Several scriptures came to my mind: “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45); “Let them praise His name with dancing” (Psa 149:3); “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world;” (John 16:33) “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you”; (John 14:20) “I am with you always…” (Matt. 28:20)

Learn to dance in the rain.

The more I pondered the full thirteen words, the more broad-reaching they became. I could see them as stones dropping into a pond on unruffled surface water, sending ripples out to the very perimeter.

The equivalent of ripples through our souls, perhaps. Continue reading “Reflections: Dancing In The Rain”